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Tim Pawlenty Discusses Possible Changes in Public Education in Minnesota

Ohanian Comment: How long will it be before a single media interviewer takes a look at the job projections from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reads a book by Richard Rothstein, et al--and then asks a real question.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host: And we have now in our studio one of the governors who's been attending the National Education Summit, Republican Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

Welcome.

Governor TIM PAWLENTY (Republican, Minnesota): Well, thank you. And thanks for having me on the show.

LUDDEN: Governor, Bill Gates told you and the other governors at this conference that American high schools are obsolete. Would you agree?

Gov. PAWLENTY: Yes, and I think that's a voice we should listen to. This is one of the most forward-looking leaders, both for our economy and for national trends and technology trends. When you have him stand up and declare American high schools obsolete, that is a very stinging indictment. In my dad's generation, in my mom's generation, if you didn't do as well in high school or maybe even washed out, if you had a strong back, you could go make a living for you and maybe your family. And as we all know, those jobs are disappearing or are gone. And so there's a new renewed premium on getting as many people as possible college educated or at least having a marketable skill that fits into this new economy because the strong-back jobs of yesterday are gone.

LUDDEN: So what would you recommend?

Gov. PAWLENTY: Number one, our high school standards and expectations need to be more rigorous. Too many of our 11th- and 12th-graders are academically checked out, and so we need to find ways to bring college opportunities and college credit into our high schools. And so in Minnesota, we're proposing you take a college-content class with a test that the state would pay for at the end. It saves Mom and Dad tuition; it's a better use of public resources while in high school; provides an additional challenge to the students.

LUDDEN: I mean, is this what you mean when the proposal's been raised to increase communication between colleges and high schools?

Gov. PAWLENTY: Yes. We have, you know, a fractured system in the sense that you have high schools and private colleges and public colleges, and their mission and their curriculum and their design is not aligned. We have colleges that prepare our teachers of the future by training them in our colleges of education. What they teach them are not often aligned to the standards that high schools and school systems in that state are using. So we're turning out teachers that have not been trained or educated around the standards that they're going to be teaching to when they get out.

LUDDEN: What about paying for all these kinds of reforms? In Minnesota, what's your situation? I mean, we've heard of some states that are, you know, taking money away from Medicaid to fund pre-K and raising property taxes has been proposed as a way to help the schools. What are you doing?

Gov. PAWLENTY: Well, like the federal government, the state of Minnesota and most other states have, you know, limited resources or are resource challenged, so you have to put money where your priorities are. And, of course, in most states, they put money into education. We'll be doing the same in Minnesota, trying to at least keep up with inflation in our school funding. But I want to see reform, as well. Like I said, just more money into the same system expecting different results is not going to be a very smart strategy in the economy and world of tomorrow. But...

LUDDEN: Where are you getting the money from?

Gov. PAWLENTY: Well, our economy is growing, of course, so our budget grows every year somewhat on autopilot. So some of it's just natural growth in the economy and natural growth in our funds. And then we're also--to make our budget work, we are slowing down the rate of growth in health-care programs, publicly subsidized health-care programs; that would be one prime example.

LUDDEN: Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, thank you very much.

Gov. PAWLENTY: You're welcome. Thanks.

— All Things Considered
National Public Radio
2005-02-27


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